California isn’t just making big changes to its marijuana laws in the New Year. There are big changes to employment laws, too. These new laws aim to protect fairness in the hiring process and aim to prevent sexual harassment.
Limitations on Questions About Criminal History
The new employment laws prohibit hiring coordinators from asking questions about an applicant’s criminal history. Before, it was common to ask applicants to check the box if they’ve been convicted of a crime. Many times, that meant an automatic rejection of their application for employment without any follow-up questions.
Now, it’s illegal for a potential employer to ask job applicants if they’ve been convicted of a crime. It’s only after the employer has already made a conditional offer for the person’s employment that they can conduct a background check and ask the question. They’re allowed to ask, but only after they’ve conditionally offered the applicant the job.
Supporters of the bill say that it’s fair to applicants who have changed their lives after a brush with the law. They say that employers should evaluate applicants based on their current skills and character rather than on what may have happened in the distant past. They say that a person’s criminal history shouldn’t be a non-negotiable when it comes to employment decisions. They say that an applicant should have the opportunity to explain the circumstances of any criminal convictions.
However, opponents say that a criminal conviction is evidence of character. They say that for jobs where there’s money involved, finding out if an applicant has a history of theft or embezzlement is a basic question. They say the measure could hurt small businesses who are victimized by their employees.
Potential employers can’t ask about an applicant’s salary history, either. Lawmakers don’t want employers basing pay decisions on a person’s past. They say that it’s a measure of equality and helping talented applicants get ahead. The applicant can volunteer the information, but the employer can’t directly ask for it.
Mandatory harassment training
In the wake of the #metoo movement, California’s new employment laws also aim to crack down on harassment in the workplace. Training for identifying, preventing and responding to harassment is now mandatory for all supervisors in California. When a supervisor stays on the job for more than two years, they must repeat the training. Some say the law doesn’t go far enough, but supporters say that it’s a start to creating safer workplaces in the state.